The Power of Team Goal Setting

As a tech leader, you understand the importance of setting clear and achievable goals for your team. Team goal setting is an essential practice that helps align individual efforts with organizational objectives, fosters collaboration, and drives overall performance. Here are some key aspects to help implement effective goal-setting strategies.

Establish a clear vision

Begin by defining a clear and compelling vision for your team that aligns with the organization’s objectives. Communicate this vision to your team members, ensuring they understand how their work contributes to the broader goals of the company. A well-articulated vision serves as a guiding principle for team goal setting and decision-making. 

At thoughtbot, our goals are often closely tied to our purpose, mission and values in an overarching way. They might include financial milestones, reaching new audiences with our services, and ensuring we feel fulfilled in our work, but the underlying aspects remain consistent. Having our goals tied to the thoughtbot vision is never a surprise to the team because we emphasize the importance of our values as building blocks from the time a new member is onboarded all through our working process.

Set SMART goals

Encourage your team to set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals. SMART goals provide a clear and actionable framework that helps team members focus their efforts, track progress, and celebrate accomplishments. By setting SMART goals, your team can work towards tangible outcomes that support the organization’s objectives. With the help of managers and a consistent place to track progress, team members can break down their work and track it consistently with someone to help hold them accountable.

Involve team members in the goal-setting process

Include your team members in the goal-setting process to ensure that their individual goals align with the team’s objectives. Collaborative goal setting fosters a sense of ownership and commitment, as team members are more likely to be invested in goals they have helped create. Encourage open communication and active participation during goal-setting discussions to ensure that everyone’s input is considered. 

At thoughtbot, we often use our own processes, like a design jam, to get the team involved and have an interactive session to kick things off or make progress on something we already started. We also have sessions open to anyone to join where we ideate and come to consensus about what we hope to accomplish for the year. Ultimately, our leadership team has final say in our goals since they have the most accurate birds-eye view of what will be best for the company, but creating space for everyone to voice their opinions allows us to generate more and better ideas, as well as get a pulse of what’s important to our team members across the organization.

Align goals across the organization

Ensure that your team’s goals are aligned with the objectives of other departments and the organization as a whole. This alignment promotes cross-functional collaboration and helps eliminate potential conflicts or redundancies in efforts. By working together towards common goals, your team can contribute to the overall success of the company. Having a place where goals are transparently shared can ensure that a line of communication about organization-wide goals remains open.

Break down goals into smaller milestones

Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable milestones or tasks that can be tracked and accomplished more easily. This approach helps team members maintain focus and momentum, as they can see tangible progress towards their goals. Additionally, achieving smaller milestones can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue working towards the larger objective. Consider making a milestone a size that can be realistically achieved by the next time you’re checking in with someone. Will they have a day, a week, or a month to achieve this milestone? How much can we realistically expect someone to get done in that amount of time given other responsibilities?

Monitor progress and provide feedback

Regularly review your team’s progress towards their goals and provide constructive feedback to help them stay on track. Celebrate achievements and address any challenges or obstacles that may arise. By monitoring progress and providing support, you can ensure that your team remains focused and motivated to achieve their goals. It’s also okay to decide that a milestone or larger goal needs to change. A team and organization are constantly evolving, so if one approach doesn’t feel like it’s serving the team anymore, be open to making revisions.

Encourage continuous improvement

Promote a culture of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing and refining your team’s goals. Encourage team members to reflect on their achievements and identify areas for growth and development. By fostering a mindset of continuous learning and adaptation, you can help your team stay agile and responsive to changing business needs. If a team member doesn’t seem to be making the progress you expected, consider problem solving with them to understand what the blockers are. Often they are something within your control to change, and don’t necessarily mean that the team member was being lazy.

Since continuous improvement is one of our core values, we put a lot of emphasis on this aspect here at thoughtbot. It’s imperative for us to understand that improvement will not always follow a linear trajectory. Often, it’s only when you look back on a meandering process over a longer period of time that you recognize that all of the side quests were additive to the ‘main’ path.

Recognize and reward success

Recognize and reward your team’s accomplishments, both individually and collectively. Celebrate milestones and achievements, and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of your team members. By creating a positive and supportive work environment, you can boost morale, engagement, and overall performance.